The Merchant of Venice


Published on

Published in: Education, Technology
  • Be the first to comment

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

The Merchant of Venice

  1. 1. 'Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire'
  2. 2. 'Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves'
  3. 3. 'Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath'
  4. 4. Main Antagonist
  5. 5. Main Protagonist
  6. 6. Comic relief
  7. 7. Portia The Prince of Morocco The Prince of Aragon Jessica
  8. 8. Comic relief Launcelot Gobbo— Comic relief
  9. 9. The Trial Scene
  10. 10. Bassanio and Portia
  11. 11. Bassanio and Portia
  12. 12. Launcelot & Old Gobbo Nerissa
  13. 13. Gratianio and Nerissa
  14. 14. Shylock
  15. 15. Shylock and Bassanio
  16. 16. More Drama Terms • Allusion—reference to mythology, the Bible, history, literature, etc. • Aside—words spoken aloud onstage, but only heard by the audience • Comic relief—break in tension by using humor such as puns, naughty jokes, silly character, etc. • Couplet--two lines that rhyme; often used to close a scene • Dramatic Irony—audience sees the humor in a situation of which the actors pretend to be unaware • Figurative language—similes, metaphors, personification, allusions, alliteration, etc. • Iambic pentameter—10 syllables of unstressed and stressed syllables • Play Notation—Act 1, scene 1 = I,I and so forth • Soliloquy—one person onstage speaks his thoughts aloud in a monologue
  17. 17. (Frame plot) plot  Launcelot Gobbo
  18. 18. The Rialto Bridge, in Italian known as Ponti di Rialto, is one of the most famous bridges in the world. It is the oldest of the four bridges spanning the Grand Canal of Venice, Italy.
  19. 19. Foreshadowing • Antonio feels a premonition of bad news. • So does Portia. • Shylock hates Antonio and will seize any opportunity to get him. • Love means risking everything.
  20. 20. Irony • • • • • • • • • Salvation? Loyalty? Love? Christianity? Mercy? Disguises work? All of his ships fail? Loophole found by clever lawyer They couldn’t wait for his ships to come in?
  21. 21. Conflicts • Man vs. man—Shylock vs. Antonio • Man vs. himself—fear and foreboding • Man vs. nature—???? • Man vs. society—prejudice/Anti-Semitism
  22. 22. Antonio is a bit of a hypocrite.
  23. 23. Our word ghetto comes from the Yiddish word for neighborhood.
  24. 24. In Shakespeare's time, no Jews had been legally present in England for several hundred years (1290). However, stereotypes of Jews as money lenders remained. Historically, money lending had been a fairly common occupation among Jews, in part because Christians were not permitted to practice usury – then considered to mean charging interest of any kind on loans. At the same time, most Christian kings forbade Jews to own land for farming or to serve in the government, and craft guilds usually refused to admit Jews as artisans, leaving money lending as one of the few professions still open to Jews.
  25. 25. Dramatis Personae (IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE): Antonio: The title character, Antonio is a wealthy but sad older merchant who claims never to have borrowed money but is willing to lend to friends, especially Bassanio, without benefit of interest. Salerio and Solanio: Friends of Antonio and Bassanio, minor characters almost indistinguishable from each other who comment on the action and who inform the audience about the action that has occurred offstage. Bassanio: A young man with expensive tastes and rich friends who borrows money from Antonio in order to court the rich, intelligent, and beautiful Portia. Gratiano: Bassanio’s friend with a bawdy and clownish demeanor. Accompanies Bassanio to Belmont to court Portia and falls in love with Portia’s servant Nerissa. Lorenzo: Bassanio’s friend who falls in love with Shylock’s daughter Jessica. Portia: Widely pursued noblewoman who is as intelligent as she is rich and beautiful. Her father’s will demands that her husband be selected through a test involving three caskets: one of gold, one of silver, and one of lead. Portia’s mind allows her to find loopholes in legal matters, thus rescuing her new husband’s friend from his bond. Nerissa: Portia’s handmaid who falls in love with Gratiano, Bassanio’s friend.
  26. 26. Shylock: The Jewish merchant of Venice who lends Antonio the money on his friend Bassanio’s behalf. Clever and quick, Shylock is all at once a dark humorist, a moral absolutist, a religious bigot, an ogre, and, surprisingly, a sentimentalist. He serves as both the villain and the most tragic figure of the play. Prince of Morocco: Portia’s suitor and the only black character in all of Shakespeare outside of Othello. He embodies many of the stereotypical Elizabethan perceptions of Moors: violent and sexual. He wrongly chooses the gold casket. Launcelot Gobbo: Shylock’s comic servant who leaves Shylock’s service to serve Bassanio. Old Gobbo: Launcelot’s blind father who has not encountered his son in years. Jessica: Shylock’s daughter, who escapes from her father’s house in order to marry Lorenzo. She converts to Christianity in order to further assimilate into the Christian society of Venice. Prince of Arragon: One of Portia’s suitors who arrogantly chooses the silver casket. Tubal: Shylock’s friend, the only other Jew in the play, who functions as a news bearer of Jessica’s escape and of her consequent behavior. Balthazar and Stephano: Servants to Portia. The Duke of Venice: The reigning official of Venice who presides over the court
  27. 27. ACT I, I. SCENE SUMMARY Antonio, a merchant of Venice, talks of his sadness with his friends Salerio and Solanio, who believe that his heavy investments at sea must cause him worry. When he says that doesn’t bother him, since his wealth isn’t invested in just one ship, they claim he must be in love. Antonio shrugs this off as well. When Bassanio enters, he tells Antonio of Portia, a rich and beautiful woman he has fallen in love with, and, although he has borrowed money from Antonio before and hasn’t paid it back, asksto borrow money again so that he may court her, and thus have enough money to pay Antonio back completely. Even though Antonio’s money is tied up in the ships, he allows Bassanio to see what kind of loan he can secure with Antonio’s credit.
  28. 28. DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 1. Antonio seems to have it all. Why, then, is Antonio so sad? Why doesn’t he know the cause of his sadness? What guesses do Solanio and Salerio have about the causes of his depression? What lifts his depression? 2. What has Bassanio come to tell Antonio? 3. Why does Bassanio set his sights on Portia? What stands in his way? How does he plan to overcome those barriers? 4. Bassanio lives well beyond his means. Why, then, does Antonio continue to lend him money willingly, even though Bassanio has yet to pay him back? Would you lend money to him? 5. What plan does Bassanio have to pay Antonio back? 6. Although he has condemned usury in the past, Antonio doesn’t need much convincing to go into debt for Bassanio. Why? What would he get out of granting him the loan? 7. What does Antonio get from his relationship with Bassanio?
  29. 29. ACT I, II. SCENE SUMMARY In Belmont, Portia complains to her servant Nerissa, that she cannot choose her own husband; her dead father has stipulated in his will that Portia’s suitors must pass a test in which they must choose among three caskets—one lead, one silver, and one gold—to find which one contains her portrait. The one who chooses correctly will become Portia’s husband and inherit her fortune, but if suitors fail, they may never marry. Portia and Nerissa discuss the faults of suitors who have come and gone, and remember Bassanio as one who might be worthy to be her husband.
  30. 30. DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 1. Shakespeare often juxtaposes (placing seeming opposites near one another) scenes (and therefore characters, settings, ideas) for a purpose. Read I, ii carefully to see what purpose Shakespeare had in placing these scenes next to one another. 2. How does Venice differ from Belmont? 3. How does Portia and Nerissa’s relationship differ from Antonio and Bassanio’s? How is it similar? Look at the way they speak. How does Shakespeare show differences in their personalities and social stature through dialogue? 4. How is Portia’s mood similar and different from Antonio’s at the start of I, i? 5. How does Portia feel about her deceased father’s method of selecting a husband for her? So far, how successful has it been in eliminating inappropriate suitors? 6. Portia mocks each of her potential suitors in turn. What faults does she see in each one? How do those faults reflect the Elizabethan viewpoints of each of these cultures? What is different about her criticism of Morocco? 7. How does Portia first encounter Bassanio? What kind of social status does he have? 8. Reread lines 126-130. Does Portia’s racism shock you?
  31. 31. ACT I, III. SCENE SUMMARY Shylock agrees to lend Bassanio three thousand ducats for three months and Antonio bound or a pound of Antonio’s flesh to be cut off wherever it pleases him. Shylock agrees based on Antonio’s credit but is skeptical, since all of Antonio’s assets are tied up at sea. He confesses in an aside that he hates Antonio because he is a Christian who lends money without interest, which makes Shylock’s profession as a moneylender difficult. Shylock has also been offended by Antonio’s public physical and verbal assaults against him for usury, which is considered a sin by Christians. When Shylock points out Antonio’s hypocrisy, Antonio points out he makes the exception for Bassanio, not for himself.
  32. 32. DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 1. Again, Shakespeare places a scene in Belmont against one in Venice. What contrasts does he want us to see in these locations? What are the main concerns/issues of importance in Belmont? Look for repeated word choices in this scene. How does the language reflect this? 2. Bassanio contacts Shylock regarding the loan. What are the terms of the loan? What does it mean for Antonio to be “bound” to a loan? 3. What does it mean when Shylock says, “Antonio is a good man” (l.12)? How does Bassanio take his meaning? What distinction does this show between the two men in terms of their priorities or states of mind? 4. Shylock does a risk analysis of Antonio’s ability to repay the loan in ll.13-26. What are the risks? What does Shylock say outweighs those risks for him? Would this be enough for you to lend him the money? 5. Bassanio invites Shylock to eat with Antonio and him, but Shylock refuses. What reasons does he give? Why does he seem so bitter all at once? What underlying rancor is there? 6. Once Antonio enters, Shylock’s aside gives us insight into why he dislikes Antonio. How would his feelings reflect the political position Jews held in Elizabethan society? How would his attitude towards the merchant influence his risk analysis?
  33. 33. 7. Examine Shylock’s speech patterns. What patterns do you notice? What figures of speech does he tend to use? 8. Describe Shylock. What stereotypical characteristics do you notice in the way Shakespeare’s words present Shylock’s character? What do you see that defies stereotypes? 9. Shylock’s love of money is undeniable. Why does Shylock tell the story of Jacob and Laban? How does Shylock interpret the story? How does Antonio? Review Genesis 30 and determine if there is a distinctly “Christian” as opposed to a “Jewish” interpretation. Which does the play seem to support? 10. Why does Shylock drop the Biblical discussion as soon as Antonio challenges him? What does this say about Shylock’s place in Venetian society? How do Antonio’s words in ll.93-98 reflect this Elizabethan perception of Jews? 11. Shylock directly confronts Antonio regarding the way Antonio has treated Shylock in the past. What wrongs has Antonio committed against Shylock? 12. How does Antonio react to the charges against him? How does he reconcile that apparent hypocrisy? Why does he say this is even more reason to grant the loan? Give proof from the text (including line numbers) in your answer.
  34. 34. 13. What are Shylock’s terms of the loan? He says he grants it in terms of a “merry sport” (l.142). Is he joking or serious? How does Antonio take it? How does Bassanio? Give proof from the text (including line numbers) in your answer. 14. What is the difference between Bassanio’s and Antonio’s perceptions of the loan terms? What accounts for those differences? Give proof from the text (including line numbers) in your answer. Would Bassanio have done the same for Antonio? 15. How does Shylock’s loan to Antonio differ from Antonio’s loan to Bassanio? 16. Given this scene, what is important in Venice? Look for repeated word choices for evidence. How does the language reflect that values system?
  35. 35. ACT II, I. SCENE SUMMARY Morocco has come to take the casket challenge to win Portia’s hand, but she tells him that if he fails, he may never marry. DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 1. Examine Morocco’s opening lines. What issues does he address? 2. Look at the language he uses in ll.1-12 and 22-38. How does the imagery in his speech reflect the Elizabethan perception of Moors? 3. What is Portia’s reaction to Morocco? Based on her previous comments to Nerissa, do you believe her? Why or why not? 4. Notice how careful Portia is with her words. Why do you think this is? What does this indicate about her intelligence? 5. Why do you think there is no Biblical imagery, only mythological imagery, in this scene?
  36. 36. ACT II, II. SCENE SUMMARY Launcelot Gobbo, Shylock’s servant, ponders (in a silly soliloquy) running away from Shylock to serve another master. He encounters his father, Old Gobbo, who is nearly blind and doesn’t recognize his son. Launcelot plays a trick on his father, misdirecting him and pretending that Launcelot is dead, but soon reveals himself and asks for his father’s blessing. Irony: “It is a wise father that knows his own child.” During their reunion, Launcelot and Old Gobbo beg Bassanio to hire him as a servant. Bassanio then sees Gratiano, who asks to go to Belmont with Bassanio. Bassanio allows Gratiano to accompany him, making clear, however, that Gratiano needs to be on his best behavior, since he has a reputation for being a wild man. Gratiano agrees, but asks that his behavior not be judged on the partying they plan to do that night. DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 1. What is Launcelot’s debate about? 2. When Old Gobbo enters and Launcelot recognizes, him, why doesn’t Launcelot reveal himself to his father? What is the purpose in hiding his identity, even briefly? 3. What purpose does the scene between Launcelot and Old Gobbo have? 4. Why does Launcelot want to leave Shylock’s service? How do his comments affect our perceptions about Shylock? 4. Why does Bassanio accept Launcelot as his servant so quickly? Can he afford a servant? 5. Why does Gratiano want to go with Bassanio to Belmont? 6. What terms does Bassanio give him in order to go? Under what terms does Gratiano agree?
  37. 37. ACT II, III. SCENE SUMMARY Jessica tells Launcelot that she, too, plans to run away from her father’s house with Bassanio’s friend Lorenzo. DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 1. What does Jessica give Launcelot? 2. What clues from I, iii and II, ii and this scene would indicate that Shylock’s house is “hell” (l.2)? 3. What “compliment” is Launcelot trying to give Jessica? What is ironic about Launcelot’s speech in lines 10-13? 4. Why is Jessica so ashamed to be a Jew? 5. How much of her running away is related to her oppressive father, and how much is related to her faith? What evidence do you have for your argument? 6. What similarities are there between Launcelot and Gobbo’s relationship and Jessica and Shylock’s? What are the differences you can see this far?
  38. 38. ACT II, IV. SCENE SUMMARY Lorenzo, Gratiano, Salerio and Solanio make plans for the masque, a Shrove Tuesday (pre-Mardi Gras/Carnivale) celebration, discussing whether or not they should arrange for torchbearers. Launcelot, on his way to invite Shylock to dine with Bassanio, arrives with Jessica’s letter detailing her plans for escape, which includes taking her father’s gold and jewels. Lorenzo tells Gratiano that Jessica will be disguised as a page and will serve as a torchbearer during the night’s festivities. DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 1. Why would torchbearers be considered vile? 2. What does Jessica’s letter say? 3. What is her plan?
  39. 39. ACT II, V. SCENE SUMMARY Shylock reacts angrily to Launcelot’s leaving him (but is secretly glad to be rid of him), but accepts the invitation to eat with Bassanio despite some nagging premonitions. Launcelot hints to Shylock that there will be a Shrove Tuesday masque that night, and Shylock orders Jessica to lock up the house so as to avoid getting robbed by the revelers. Launcelot tells Jessica that Lorenzo will go through with their plans. DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 1. What does the word gormandize (l.3) mean? 2. What is Shylock’s initial reaction to Launcelot’s leaving his service? 3. Why does Shylock say he will accept Bassanio’s invitation? 4. How is Launcelot’s “misused” word (reproach, l.20) actually accurate? 5. Why does Shylock say at the end of the scene that he is glad Launcelot is leaving? 6. How does Shylock perceive himself as a master and a father? Give evidence from the text to support your answer. 7. This is the first time Launcelot and Jessica are together with Shylock onstage. How accurate were Launcelot’s and Jessica’s descriptions of Shylock’s household? How does this further develop our understanding of Shylock’s character?
  40. 40. ACT II, VI. SCENE SUMMARY Gratiano and Salerio meet Lorenzo outside Shylock’s house, in order to help Jessica, now dressed as a young man (a page), escape with a casket of Shylock’s gold and jewels. As Gratiano is about to leave for the revelries, Antonio catches him, saying that Bassanio’s ship is about to depart, so he’d better skip the festivities. DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 1. Why are Gratiano and Salerio anxious? 2. What do the two men say about the nature of love? What view of love does Gratiano take? What kind of boyfriend do you think he would be? 3. Gratiano swears by his “hood” that Jessica is “gentle, and no Jew” (l.51). What do his puns refer to? How do his words reflect the Elizabethan values system? What do they say about Gratiano’s character? 4. Review Bassanio’s speech in I, i, ll.161-176. How is Lorenzo’s love for Jessica different from Bassanio’s love for Portia? How are they the same? 5. Do you think Jessica will be happy with Lorenzo? Why or why not?
  41. 41. ACT II, VII. SCENE SUMMARY In Belmont, Morocco enters the lottery to win Portia’s hand in marriage. He reads the inscriptions on each of the caskets and selects the gold one, whose inscription reads, “Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire” (l.37). Since the gold casket is made of such a valuable material, he reasons, it is the only one fit to contain Portia’s image. When he opens the casket, he finds a skull with a scroll in the eye socket. When he leaves, Portia declares that she hopes that all “men of his complexion” (l.79) choose the same way. DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 1. How does Morocco’s mind work, that is, what do his words say about who he is? Based on his reasoning, what is his opinion of Portia? Where do his priorities lie? 2. How does death represent “what many men desire” (l.37)? 3. Do you think Morocco would have been a good match for Portia? Why or why not? 4. Is Portia racist? Give evidence for your claim.
  42. 42. ACT II, VIII. SCENE SUMMARY In one of the most racially charged scenes in the play, Solanio recounts for Salerio Shylock’s reaction to Jessica’s theft and elopement. Solanio hopes Antonio is able to pay his debt, but Salerio has heard a rumor that Antonio’s ships have capsized. Salerio remembers how hard it was for Bassanio to leave Antonio, and the two decide to tell Antonio what they’ve heard, but to try to break the news to him gently. DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 1. What does Solanio report that he heard Shylock say? 2. Do you think Solanio is an accurate reporter? Why or why not? 3. If he is accurate, what new insights do you have about Shylock? What does he value more, his money or his lost daughter? Give evidence from the text to support your opinion. 4. Solanio reports that Shylock calls out for “Justice! The law” (l.17), and Salerio acknowledges that the Duke knows about Jessica’s running off with Lorenzo. What benefit could arise from the involvement of the law in this situation? 5. What reaction do the Venetians have towards Shylock’s grief? 6. What impact will Jessica’s running away with the Christian Lorenzo have on Shylock and his bond with Antonio? Why? 7. What rumor does Salerio hear about Antonio’s ships? 8. What impression do you get about Antonio’s and Bassanio’s relationship based on Salerio’s description of their parting?
  43. 43. ACT II, IX. SCENE SUMMARY Aragon undergoes the casket test and selects the silver casket, which reveals a portrait of a “blinking idiot.” As soon as Aragon leaves, word comes that Bassanio has arrived to try the test. DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 1. What can you tell about Portia’s attitude towards Aragon? What text clues do you have to support this? 2. What is Aragon’s logic in selecting the silver casket? How does his logic reveal his character? How is his thinking different from Morocco’s? Is he more or less intelligent than Morocco? 3. What does Portia mean in her response to Aragon’s questions (ll.60-1)? 4. What does Nerissa’s comment mean (ll.81-2)? What do you make of her character thus far? 5. Why is the messenger so favorable in his description of Bassanio? 6. What is Portia’s response to the messenger?
  44. 44. ACT III, I. SCENE SUMMARY Solanio and Salerio have heard reports that confirm that Antonio’s ships have indeed wrecked, and they are concerned about his bond with Shylock. Shylock, still reeling from his daughter’s escape, hears from Salerio about Antonio’s bad fortune, and his grief turns to anger. Salerio questions whether Shylock will really take his pound of flesh from Antonio, and Shylock responds that he will take it in revenge, just as a Christian would (“Hath not a Jew” speech, ll.50-69). Tubal, another Jew, confirms Antonio’s shipwrecks and tells Shylock that he hasn’t found Jessica, but has heard that she has spent 80 ducats in one night and has traded her mother’s ring for a monkey. Enraged, Shylock gets an officer to arrest Antonio in order to collect his bond. DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 1. How are minor characters such as Salerio and Solanio designed to reflect Venetian society at large? 2. Why is it so sad for Shylock that his daughter converted and married a Christian? 3. Why does Shylock channel his grief over Jessica’s leaving into anger at Antonio? 4. According to this scene, were Salerio and Solanio’s report about Shylock’s reaction to Jessica’s escape correct? How has this affected your opinion of those two characters? Did Shylock’s reaction affect your opinion of him? 5. Which does Shylock miss more: Jessica or his money? How would his grief and anger affect the way he talks about the losses? 6. Based on how Shylock has been treated by Christians, is it wrong for him to want revenge? If positions were reversed, would Antonio demand the same? 7. Why is the loss of the ring even more agonizing to Shylock? 8. Is Shylock a villain or a victim of persecution?
  45. 45. ACT III, II. SCENE SUMMARY Bassanio arrives in Belmont to vie for Portia’s hand, and she tries to delay his choice so as to spend more time with him in case he chooses incorrectly. She wishes she could teach him how to choose, and in fact gives him clues in her song, but will not defy the letter of the law of her father’s will. When Bassanio chooses correctly, Gratiano reveals that he is in love with Nerissa, completing the third romantic couple of the play. Lorenzo, Jessica, Salerio, and a messenger arrive from Venice, and Bassanio receives the news that Antonio has been arrested. Portia offers to repay the debt even twenty times over, and Bassanio makes plans to return to Venice to try to rescue his friend. DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 1. How is Portia’s demeanor with Bassanio different from that with her other suitors? What new side of Portia are we seeing? Give support for your answer from the text. 2. Why the new emphasis on music (l.43)? 3. Examine the end rhymes of Portia’s song as well as the images it includes. How might these be construed as hints? 4. Look at the circumstances under which Bassanio has come to court Portia. Is he the type of man Portia’s father would have chosen for her? Does he have an unfair advantage in her hints?
  46. 46. 5. Compare Bassanio’s logic in selection with Morocco’s and Aragon’s. How does his elimination process differ from theirs? How does his description of the world also describe himself? Would he have been able to choose without Portia’s hints or encouragement? Why or why not? 6. Portia gives Bassanio the ring with a warning, and Bassanio accepts the ring with his own pledge. How is this contract or bond similar to and different from the one made in Venice? What significance did rings have in Elizabethan England? Do they have the same significance today? 7. What news do Gratiano and Nerissa have? What bet do they make with Bassanio and Portia? 8. Look at the “welcome” given to Jessica (ll.218 and 237). How does she try to fit into Belmont society? What will life be like for her? 9. Bassanio comes clean about his financial status (ll.250-271). What effect does that have on Portia? 10. How does the news from Venice change the language used in Belmont? 11. What does Antonio’s letter indicate about his feelings for Bassanio?
  47. 47. ACT III, III. SCENE SUMMARY Shylock takes Antonio to jail, with Antonio pleading for mercy in vain. Solanio and Antonio discuss whether the Duke will dismiss the case, but Antonio believes the law will hold. If one contract is broken, then the whole financial foundation of Venice will crash. DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 1. Why does Shylock insist on the punishment for forfeiting the bond? 2. Why does Solanio think the Duke will forgive the forfeiture? Why doesn’t Antonio? 3. Much of this play has to do with Christian vs. Jewish standards of morality. What takes precedence in Venetian law, where commerce is king?
  48. 48. ACT III, IV. SCENE SUMMARY Portia leaves her estate in the hands of Lorenzo while pretending to stay at a monastery a few miles away during their husbands’ absence. Instead, she gets documents and legal clothing from her lawyer cousin so she and Nerissa may go to Venice. Portia promises she will divulge her plan on the way to Venice. DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 1. Why would Portia even consider helping Antonio? 2. What does she tell Lorenzo that she and Nerissa will do? What is their actual plan? 3. What does Portia’s speech about their disguises (ll.60-78) say about her opinion of men? 4. How is she equipped to portray a man? 5. What does Jessica’s cross-dressing have in common with Portia and Nerissa’s? What purpose does each serve? 6. What disadvantages do you see with Portia, coming from Belmont to Venice? What advantages does she have?
  49. 49. ACT III, V. SCENE SUMMARY Interlude In a scriptural debate Launcelot tells Jessica he believes she is damned for her father’s sins, but she asserts that because of her husband, she will not be. Launcelot complains about the conversion of the Jews, which, since they will not be forbidden to eat pork, will raise the price of bacon. Lorenzo enters and berates Launcelot for getting a Moorish servant pregnant. He and Nerissa discuss Portia’s merits, and Lorenzo comments that he is as great a husband as Portia is a wife. Pun—”The Moor is more than I took her for…” DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 1. Antonio quips that the devil can cite scripture for his own purpose (I, iii, l.95). How does the scriptural debate between Launcelot and Jessica serve each character’s purpose? This debate has the potential to explode the harmony of Belmont. How does Shakespeare diffuse this? 2. How has the relationship between Jessica and Launcelot changed since Launcelot became Bassanio’s servant and not Shylock’s? Has his change in master changed his personality? Explain. 3. Why does Launcelot use wordplay as humor? What effect does his humor have? 4. What do Jessica and Lorenzo think of Portia? Why is their opinion important enough for Shakespeare to show?
  50. 50. Portia and Nerissa
  51. 51. Portia and Nerissa in disguise
  52. 52. The Trial in Act IV
  53. 53. ACT IV, I. SCENE SUMMARY Shylock refuses to dismiss the bond, even for repayment of twice the original loan. The Duke tries to reason with Shylock, asking him to have mercy in order to gain mercy, but Shylock argues that, since he has purchased his pound of flesh, it is his to do with as he likes. Portia and Nerissa show up disguised, respectively as a young lawyer and a clerk, just as the Duke is ready to allow Shylock to claim his bond. Portia, as Bathasar, acknowledges the bond, but appeals to Shylock with her “quality of mercy is not strained” speech (ll.183-204). When he refuses, Portia says the law must be upheld, but asks him to reconsider mercy. Still, he demands his bond. As Shylock prepares his knife and the scales on which to weigh the flesh, Antonio bids a passion-filled farewell to Bassanio (and Gratiano), who declare that they would give up their new wives’ lives to keep Antonio alive, to Portia and Nerissa’s chagrin. As the sentence comes down, Portia reveals the loopholes in the law: not a drop of blood may be spilled with the taking of the pound of flesh; and precisely a pound of flesh may be taken, no more or less. Otherwise, all his possessions will be confiscated by the state of Venice.
  54. 54. When Shylock backpedals, trying to take the payment rather than the bond, Portia shows no mercy. Furthermore, since Shylock has essentially plotted murder, his property will be split between Antonio and the state, and he is subject to the death penalty. Antonio gives Shylock half of his half back if he makes a will leaving his estate to Jessica and Lorenzo. The Duke allows him to live but requires that not only should Shylock’s property be willed to Lorenzo and Jessica but that Shylock become a Christian as well. Shylock assents, saying, “I am not well” (l.395). Antonio and Bassanio offer to pay the disguised Portia and Nerissa for their help. They refuse, but Portia agrees to take Antonio’s gloves, asking Bassanio for his wedding ring. Bassanio initially refuses, but recants, sending Gratiano to deliver the ring. DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 1. What is Antonio’s mood going into the trial? How does this compare with his mood in I, i? Why do you think this is? 2. What comparisons does Antonio make concerning Bassanio’s arguing with Shylock? 3. How is others’ treatment of their slaves comparable to Shylock’s treatment of his ‘pound of flesh,’ according to Shylock? How does this argument test Venetian law? 4. If the courts do not uphold Shylock’s claim, what does that mean for the laws of Venice?
  55. 55. 5. How do those in the courtroom react to Shylock? How would you describe their behavior? How is their behavior similar to and different from behavior towards him in the streets of Venice? Find evidence from the text for your comparison. 6. What appeals does Portia make in petitioning Shylock to have mercy? What effect do these appeals have on Shylock? 7. Why is Shylock so adamant about the law and in his refusal to grant mercy, despite the offer of double and triple repayment? What is greater than his religion and his love of money? 8. Does it surprise you that Portia upholds the law instead of bending it in this case? Why or why not? 9. What does it mean for Shylock to call Portia “a Daniel”? 10. Why does Shylock refuse to get a doctor to attend to Antonio? 11. What effect do Bassanio’s pleas have? 12. What is Antonio’s reaction to the trial? 13. How does Gratiano respond to the proceedings? 14. How does Portia save Antonio’s life? 15. What is the legal punishment for conspiring against a Venetian’s life? 16. What mercy does the Duke show? Before he gives his punishment, the Duke tells Shylock that he will “see the difference of our spirit” (l.367). What is the spirit of the Venetians, and by extension, Christians?
  56. 56. 17. What about Antonio’s mercy? What are his conditions? 18. How does Shylock feel about the outcome of the trial? How do you feel about it? 19. Was this a fair trial? Explain. 20. What do the Venetians gain from Shylock’s conversion to Christianity? Why would this punishment be viewed as a virtuous one? 21. What new insights do Portia and Nerissa have into their husbands’ natures as a result of this trial? 22. Shakespeare calls this play a comedy. How does the outcome of this trial help the play qualify? 23. Why would Portia ask Bassanio for the ring he had promised not to give away? What does this say about her character? 24. What excuse does Bassanio give the disguised Portia for not initially giving her his wedding ring? 25. How easy is it for Antonio to change Bassanio’s mind? What does Antonio say Bassanio should value more than the ring?
  57. 57. ACT IV, II. SCENE SUMMARY Portia and Nerissa deliver the deed for Shylock to sign. Gratiano catches up to deliver Bassanio’s ring to them. Nerissa decides to get Gratiano to give up his ring, and both plot to make the men sorry they ever did. DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 1. What does the fact that both Bassanio and Gratiano give their rings away say about relationships between men and relationships between men and women? 2. How serious will the consequences of giving the rings away be? How do you know? 3. What is Shakespeare’s intent in bringing in the ring plotline here? What purpose does it serve?
  58. 58. ACT V, I. SCENE SUMMARY In Portia’s garden Lorenzo and Jessica compare themselves to famous romantic couples of myth and literature. When servants inform them of their masters’ arrivals, Lorenzo asks for music with which to greet Portia, noting its power to charm. Portia and Nerissa arrive, warning the servants not to mention their absence. Upon his return Bassanio introduces the women to Antonio. Portia and Nerissa quarrel with Bassanio and Gratiano respectively about their missing rings, withholding their husbands’ marital privileges until they have their rings back. In fact, both women confess they slept with the lawyer and his clerk to retrieve their rings. Before the men are too shocked at their wives’ “unfaithfulness,” Portia shows them a letter from her lawyer cousin explaining their roles in saving Antonio’s life. In true romantic form, Antonio’s ships miraculously return, Lorenzo and Jessica learn they will inherit Shylock’s fortune, and everyone retires to bed as morning comes. The whole tone of the play is changed by Gratiano’s ending couplets.
  59. 59. DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 1. How does the dramatic shift in setting affect the tone of the play at this point? 2. Why does Shakespeare return us to Lorenzo and Jessica? What can we glean about their relationship? Are they a good match? Explain your answer. 3. What effect does music have on the characters specifically, and on the scene in general? 4. Examine the argument about the ring (ll.192-208). What is the tone of that argument? How do you know this? How has Shakespeare molded the language to convey this tone? 5. How is this scene the comic inverse of the courtroom scene from IV, i.? 6. How is Portia’s intelligence an asset to her marriage? How is it a hindrance? 7. Note the language play in this scene. How does it reflect the emotional tone of the scene? 8. The act starts in moonlight and ends as morning comes. Why? 9. Does this play have a “happily ever after” ending? Why or why not? What contributes to that feeling? What detracts from it?
  60. 60. ESSAY TOPICS 1. Although Shylock only appears in five scenes, he dominates The Merchant of Venice. In fact, many critics say that although Shylock was first intended to be a stock comic character, he “outgrew” Shakespeare’s play. What do they mean? 2. In an essay, defend or refute: Shylock is the most morally upright character in the play. 3. A Shakespearean comedy often involves complex twists of plot and usually ends in marriage. A Shakespearean tragedy involves a hero whose downfall is thefocus of the play. British actor Peter Ustinov said once in an interview, “A comedy is just a tragedy gone wrong, and a tragedy is just a comedy gone wrong.” Using evidence and direct quotes from the play, write a persuasive essay in which you convince your readers that The Merchant of Venice is either a comedy or a tragedy. 4. The Nazis found The Merchant of Venice to be a useful piece of propaganda during their reign. How would their production have looked? How would the characters have been portrayed? Which lines would have been emphasized? Write an essay in which you discuss how The Merchant of Venice could have been an effective tool for spreading anti-Semitism?
  61. 61. 5. Throughout the play, Christians de-personalize and alienate Shylock by refusing to use his given name. Instead, they call him “the Jew,” “the villain Jew,” “this currish Jew,” “impenetrable cur,” “harsh Jew,” “infidel,” “cruel devil,” and the devil “in the likeness of the Jew.” To the Christian characters, Shylock is the embodiment of the devil. Write an essay discussing whether Shylock is a villain or a result of the way he has been treated, using support from the play as evidence. 6. In Shakespeare’s world the stereotype of Jews was viciously negative; similarly, Morocco, an African, would have been scorned as inferior. But do Shakespeare’s plays encourage or challenge the widespread anti-Semitism and racism of the time? Write an essay in which you examine which characters reinforce negative images, and which break the stereotypes and how. How do you think a modern viewer’s response to stereotypes differs from viewers in Shakespeare’s time? Do you conclude that Shakespeare was anti-Semitic and/or racist? Why or why not? 7. Write an essay in which you examine the various types of love featured in The Merchant of Venice: friendship, love between father and child, romantic love, as well as love of possessions/money. Which type of love is shown to be the strongest in the play? What about the tensions in some of the relationships? What is Shakespeare telling us about the nature of love?
  62. 62. The Merchant of Venison